MapMaker: Cities of the World

MapMaker: Cities of the World

City populations change sizes over time, some increase, and others decrease as industries or climate change. Select a city and explore how its population has changed and how experts expect it to change.


5 - 12+


Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Human Geography, Social Studies, World History

NGS Resource Carousel Loading Logo
Loading ...

It is estimated that more than seven billion people live on Earth and we are likely to hit more than nine billion by 2050. Approximately 55 percent of Earth’s human population currently lives in areas classified as urban. That number is expected to grow by 2050 to 68 percent according to the United Nations (UN).

The largest cities in the world include Tōkyō, Japan; New Delhi, India; Shanghai, China; México City, Mexico; and São Paulo, Brazil. Each of these cities classifies as a megacity, a city with more than 10 million people living there. The UN estimates the world will have 43 megacities by 2030.

Most cities' populations are growing as people move in for greater economic, educational, and healthcare opportunities. But not all cities are expanding. Those cities whose populations are declining may be experiencing lower fertility rates (the number of births is lower than the number of deaths), shrinking economies, emigration, or have experienced a natural disaster that resulted in fatalities or forced people to leave the region.

This Global Cities map layer contains data published in 2018 by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). It shows urban agglomerations. The UN DESA defines an urban agglomeration as a continuous area where the population is classified at urban levels (by the country in which the city resides) regardless of what local government systems manage the area. Since not all places record data the same way, some populations may be calculated using the city population as defined by its boundary and the metropolitan area. If a reliable estimate for the urban agglomeration was unable to be determined the population of the city or metropolitan area is used.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Expert Reviewer
Anita Palmer
Last Updated

June 20, 2024

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources